Gaborone Bonnington South Member of Parliament, Ndaba Gaolathe
Gaborone Bonnington South Member of Parliament, Ndaba Gaolathe has opined that the saga involving President of Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, who was mentioned in the infamous Panama papers serves to expose the lapses of the country’s governance system.
The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) president expressed that while the mention of a prominent judge’s name should not cause the conclusion that he is involved in illegal activity, he said as an able judge, he should have been aware that the law firm he used did not enjoy an impeccable reputation, even at the time.
“The concealment of shareholders in general, in such companies, also means a possible concealment of names of individuals that may have to be tried before the courts at some point, before a judge who may be conflicted, without anyone knowing. These are some of the matters that the Judge President sought to clear in a recent interview,” he told Weekend Post.
Gaolathe said the question of whether Justice Kirby should or should not resign misses the more pertinent questions as the main concern should be whether the judiciary in Botswana is becoming less and less independent of the executive.
“Is our system becoming less fairer? Is ours a deteriorating democracy? The answer is an emphatic yes; our entire system of Governance is deteriorating, if not disintegrating,” he asserted.
Gaolathe remarked that in a robust democracy, the country’s system would have a freedom of information or declaration legislation as reference on which it would have been a simple matter to assess the mention of anyone’s name on the Panama papers.
In Kirby’s particular situation, Gaolathe said, a more independent judiciary would have issued, as an institution, a statement clearing the air and making plain the facts that reinforce the hope that the institution remains intact, and possessing all the ingredients and the personnel to sustain, enhance and pursue its role as a fair and independent judiciary.
“This has not been done, or if it has been done, it was done in a way that is too little to notice. The executive branch of the BDP-led Government, through its acts of unduly imposing its will, first on the country’s legislature, and now on the judiciary, is planting the seeds for the disintegration of our democracy,” he stated.
“With a weakened legislature, and now an increasingly weakening judiciary, Botswana’s system of governance is deteriorating and it will become more difficult to conjure the confidence of the people.”
According to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) secretary general, what the Panama papers are doing is simply to expose the lapses of our governance system.
He contends that Botswana needs a fresher constitutional framework, more robust governance and transparency laws and fairer budgetary investment in the other branches of Government outside the executive.
Gaolathe decried the state of Botswana’s judiciary as he expressed that many observers in the past suggest that Botswana’s judiciary was for a long time, considered relatively independent and fair.
“Those in the know mention that the greatest institutional reform of Botswana’s judiciary transpired during Julian Nganunu’s tenure as Chief Justice,” he said.
“The greatest improvement during his tenure was a simple, yet a fundamental one: he secured the resources necessary for judges to do their work freely and unconstrained, supported by an administrative and intellectual infrastructure.”
Gaolathe said despite such achievement, recent years have brought scrutiny to the state of our judiciary because appointments to the bench have tended to favour candidates with links or known sympathy to the ruling party, at the expense of more able candidates whose political affiliation were deemed mysterious.
“A case in point is that of Motumisi (Omphemetse), an impeccable legal intellect with an unimpeachable sense of fairness and devotion to justice in general, who was overlooked by our judicial selection system, but who would have made it to the finest benches anywhere else in the world,” he claimed.
“By far one of the most worrisome epochs in the evolution of our judiciary was the suspension of three or four judges – Justice Key Dingake, Justice Modiri Letsididi, Mercy Garekwe and Justice Rainer Busang – from the bench last year, for unclear reasons.”
Gaolathe opines that the matter could have been resolved administratively, by applying some provisions of the Public Finance and Management Act.
“The involvement of the executive whether directly or indirectly in this decision and process is a major indictment on the current Government’s commitment to an independent judiciary,” he expressed.
“This is a major question about our country, because it touches the heart of whether we are a genuine democracy or serious about becoming one, or whether we continue to regress and gravitate towards a subtle dictatorship, a subtle autocracy, a subtle hard-fisted state controlled by a mafia that is able to camouflage behind a ruling party, a mafia dictated to by the secret and destructive acts of the DIS.”
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.
The State has chosen to ignore intents by kingpins in the P100 billion scandal to sue for a combined P85 million as tables turn against the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the matter.
Key players in the matter; the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Bank of Botswana (BoB) have eroded the prospects of success following the duo’s institutions’ appearance before parliamentary committees recently.